tagLesbian SexThe Woman down the Hall

The Woman down the Hall


This story is a one off while I get to work on other stories, it's set in New York City, 1984. I hope you enjoy this short trip back in time. Thank you to those who have left feedback on earlier stories, it helps to make me a better writer.


The two most important letters lay on the table beside a small pile of other letters but Mary had opened these two first because they were important. The first was from her employer McGraw & Hill, dated January 31 1984 and was official confirmation that her six month contract had been renewed for a further six months. She was to remain with the New York office, they commended her work ethic and hoped it would continue. The second letter was from her fiancé, John, there was no date on the letter but the postmark showed it was posted ten days earlier.

Dear Mary,

I hope you are doing well in America. I am doing well here, which is why I am writing to you. I have received a promotion and am due to fly out to Hong Kong to work in our Far East branch. Therefore I think it best we call off our engagement, this was never going to work, it's not fair on either of us. Please do not try to save our relationship as I fear some things cannot be saved. I wish you all the very best for the future, you deserve so much better than myself.


John C. Hunt

P.S. Could you please return the ring to my parent's address. I have included a money order for this purpose.

Mary stared at the ring on her finger and in a fit of anger she pulled it off and hurled it against the fridge.


She regretted it straight away and moved to retrieve it but just as she picked it up she heard a knock on the door. Putting the ring on John's letter, she went to peep through the spyhole. The woman on the other side of the door was instantly recognisable although she only knew her as the woman down the hall. Mary unlocked the series of locks on her door and opened the door. The woman was wearing a patterned, pink pussybow blouse and a black pencil skirt. She had a catalogue in her hand and a bemused smile on her face.

"Hi, I'm Nancy from down the hall? They delivered two Sears catalogues to me again, the last time I gave the second copy to Teri next door but she's not in, would you like this copy?"

"Oh, okay," she took the Sears catalogue, "thank you."

"Are you all right?"

"I'm fine, I'm fine."

"Okay, no need to repeat yourself, I heard you the first time," she ran a hand through her thick brown hair, "you're not a local though. That's a Scots accent."

"I'm from Aberdeen," she replied, "it's on the east coast."

"Wow, what are the odds of that? My grandmother was from Aberdeen."

Mary waited for the inevitable, 'did you know her?' But instead Nancy took a step backwards and nodded at her.

"Nice talking to you. Have a good night."

"I'm Mary," she took a step forward, "Mary Douglas, it's nice to put a name to a face," she held out her left hand in greeting. Nancy took her hand and held it briefly as she studied her face.

"I know the feeling, seven million people here and it's getting harder to find a friend."

They were still holding hands and Mary let go.

"Would, would you like to come in?"

Nancy's eyes shifted to her own apartment and she nodded.

"Sure, why not."

Normally she didn't have visitors here but the woman was friendly enough. She was about her age and height although she carried a little more weight up top, she had an attractive face and moved with the confidence of a New Yorker, sizing up the situation quickly. Nancy looked around at the cupboards and benches as Mary put the catalogue on the table.

"Would you like a cup of tea?"

"How very Scottish of you," Nancy propped against a bench, "yes, please."

"You're different to other Americans."

"How so?"

"You say Scottish instead of Scotch."

"The benefits of having a Scottish grandmother, Scotch is a drink, Scottish refers to the people but yeah, you must get that a lot."

"I got tired of correcting them," she took down a packet of tea, "I once cracked a joke not long after I moved here when someone called me Scotch and I said, drink me," she trailed away.

Nancy burst out laughing at that and Mary blushed.

"I'd like to have seen his face."

"Her face," Mary replied, "it didn't go down well, she thought I was gay."

"Go figure," Nancy contemplated the table, "you don't mind if I ask a personal question?"

"Go ahead," she shrugged.

"Are you recently engaged or has it just ended?"

"It's ended," she placed two cups on the bench, "it's a dear John letter from John C. Hunt."

"I'm sorry."

"Thank you," she turned around and propped on the bench, "so I won't be known as Mary Hunt," she frowned, "which is probably a good thing considering what it rhymes with."

She blushed and Nancy burst out laughing again.

"I was going to say it but I held back. It's the one thing we love hearing from British people, the word cunt. My grandmother was one of the most polite people I knew but even she used to use it whenever my grandfather came home drunk."

"Well in John's case the word fits perfectly, he wants me to send the ring back."

"No?" Nancy stared at her, "the bastard. He won't even let you keep the ring?"

"He did send a postal order," Mary stared at it, "and knowing John he calculated the weight down to the last gram, the cheap cunt."

"Do you mind if I?" Nancy took a step forward and Mary shrugged.

"Go ahead, if you nick it at least I can say it was stolen and cash in the money order."

"I'm not a thief," Nancy picked it up, "sure looks like the real deal. Have you had it valued?"

"No, I'm not that cheap but apparently it's real."

"Easy enough to test it," she glanced at a framed portrait of John and Mary on top of the fridge, "if it scratches glass you'll know it's real."

"I never thought of that," she took the picture down, "at least I can say I've got a spare frame now," she put it on the table.

"Still, if he's sent you enough money to return it then it probably is real."

"More than likely," she stroked her throat, "so have you always lived here or are you from out of town?"

"Up state," she replied, "I'm a Buffalo girl but the work here pays more so I moved here in the fall of 1979. Five years down the track I'm still here and single again."

"So, what was his name?"

"Lesley," she replied, "Lesley Ann Downs, I play for the other team."

"Oh, okay," Mary managed a smile, "different but this is New York."

"We got all kinds here, pickings were slim out in Buffalo. My dad and mom know I'm gay but they're hoping I meet some nice fella here."

"Well to each their own," she looked over at the kettle, "can't say I've ever thought about doing it with a woman, but you are the best looking lesbian I've ever seen."

"Thanks for the compliment, I'm actually disguised as a woman," she chuckled.

"Well the disguise works brilliantly, you certainly fooled me," Mary pulled the hair tie from her hair and let her long brown hair hang free.

"God, I would kill to have hair that long," Nancy looked at her, "I've tried growing it longer but it just gets split ends," she glanced at the other letter.

"I just got my contract extended for another six months," Mary glanced at the simmering kettle, "doesn't exactly outweigh the bad but at least I've still got an income."

"So what do you do at McGraw?"

"Copy editor," she replied.

"Well this is a stroke of good luck," she murmured.

"Why? You writing a book?"

"Yeah, it's a gritty romance novel set in the 1940s, woman meets woman in wartime England, and in tribute to my grandmother I made the British woman Scottish, she's an SOE agent parachuted into wartime France."

"Sounds intriguing, maybe I could have a read."

"Would you? I'd pay to have it read."

"Oh it's no bother," she waved her away, "it's not like my social calendar needs adjusting, besides, you're a neighbour," she paused, "how many words so far?"

"About half a ream, I'm not good with word counts."

Mary stared ahead for a few moments as she fiddled with the top button of her blouse.

"I'll make a deal with you," she straightened up.

"If you make me a home-cooked dinner once a week, I'll read your chapters and give you my opinion and edits after dinner."

"Deal," Nancy fluffed out her hair, "this should be interesting."

It certainly was an interesting hour or so. Nancy MacKenzie was an Assistant District Attorney, which begged the question.

"How do you find the time?"

"You sacrifice something, in my case I sacrificed my social life."

It was something Mary could relate to, in fact they found a lot of common ground that night and by the time she farewelled her new friend they'd agreed on Wednesday night for dinner.

Nancy appeared at her door the following night with the first chapter of her novel, tentatively titled A Love Story and after a brief cup of tea returned to her apartment.

The title had to go she decided but that week as she worked through the chapter, she found herself warming to Nancy's style, it was fresh, compelling and mercifully free of clichés. The number of corrections were few but she had a suggestion for the Scottish character.

"You should make Moira bilingual from the very start, seeing as she's the SOE agent, a lot of them were recruited because they were natural French speakers or at least familiar with France."

This was said as Nancy was dishing up dinner.

"I never thought of that one, I guess it stands to reason. Do you speak French?"

"High school French but yes, I do speak it."

"So if I wrote out some English dialogue, you could provide a French translation?"

"Of course, as long as it's not too long. High school French is fairly limited."

The next chapter introduced the American character, Sylvia, a native New Yorker attached to the War Department. She became intrigued with Sylvia because she was so obviously modelled on Nancy, although there were some differences such as her appearance but in character she was a lot like Nancy. By the end of the month she'd upped her intake of chapters, taking three at a time. The story was starting to pique her interest and in that time she got a letter from one of her girlfriends, asking when she was sending out wedding invitations.

It came as a shock because she'd thought her mother would at least have told everyone but Vickie was down in London and hadn't been seen for quite some time. She wrote back and told her the wedding was off and then wrote to her mother. She ended the letter with, Love, Moira and then scribbled it out and wrote Mary.

Nancy laughed when she related the incident the next day.

"So, Mary has become Moira."

"They both start with the same letter," she smiled and contemplated the plate of food, "still, she is on my mind. I think if I was going to have sex with a woman then Moira would be someone I'd choose."

"It's different in real life but I've tried to keep it realistic."

That night they talked not about her chapters but about love between women. It left Mary feeling both disturbed and intrigued. The negative feeling came from the realisation that it was actually far more normal than she first thought. A moment of intimacy could be taken much further if both women were comfortable with each other, the mystery revolved around what it would be like to get naked with a woman.

Oddly enough for Mary, when she awoke the next morning, the first person she thought of was Nancy. She actually bumped into her on the way out of the building. Nancy was dressed in a tan pussybow blouse and trouser suit. They shared a cab ride to work, which was a relief to Mary after months braving the subway.

"We should do this more often," Nancy murmured as the cab pulled up outside the McGraw building.

"A cab ride?"

"Well," she checked her watch, "normally I start half an hour later than you but if you're up for it we can share a cab ride and share the fare. I could do with starting half an hour earlier, the office is quieter and I can get more done, and I'd finish earlier," she looked at her.

"All right," Mary nodded and opened her bag, "how much?"

"It's on me this time," she patted her hand, "see you tonight?"

"It's a date," she smiled.

Was it a date? It wasn't a date but why had she thought of it like that?

The question still wasn't resolved when she hopped into the cab after work. Nancy greeted her with a smile and they talked about their day on the way home. Once they got into the building however they went to their own apartments, but soon the two women began spending more time in each other's apartments. That soon expanded into coffee at a nearby diner and the occasional dinner together and slowly Mary began to change, both outwardly in her dress sense and inwardly, becoming more outgoing in a subtler way.

Mary was drawing closer to the woman, both as a result of reading her romantic novel and the time they spent with each other and yet despite her growing attraction to Nancy, she still felt as if it was a step she could never take. It would take some kind of cataclysmic event she reasoned and in the first week of April such an event did take place when her mother died of a sudden heart attack.

It was the kind of tragedy that completely blind-sided her and in the day it took for her to inform her boss, pack a case and book a flight home she found Nancy was a rock she could rely upon. So much so that when she finally arrived back in Aberdeen she called Nancy to tell her she'd arrived safe and sound.

"Good," Nancy replied, "glad to hear it. Just do what you have to do and I'll see you when you get back in the States."

And she was going back despite the fact her father was now a widower. Father and daughter seemed to understand that much but when her ex turned up at the funeral, uninvited, she felt the urge to run from the church. It was only the sight of the coffin and her father's hand in hers that kept her in place until they were outside.

"So sorry," John moved forward to kiss her.

"Thank you," she turned away, "for turning up without letting me know."

It was rude but she felt it was the only thing she could say and in the two days she had left, Mary spent all her time with her father, ignoring John's phone calls until finally her father asked her why she was ignoring him.

"Because of what he did to me, I know he's using mum's death to get close to me. He thinks he can worm his way back into my life while I'm emotionally drunk."

"Understandable, so, have you found love in New York?"

"Maybe," she replied absently, "although it's not what I expected."

"Oh, aye?"

"I love a woman."

She waited for the disapproving look but instead her father merely patted her hand.

"You'll work it out, I'm sure, pet. Your mother was so proud of you, I still am proud of you."

Was she in love with Nancy? It was the first time she'd voiced the thought and now it was out in the open it seemed to grow arms and legs. Or was she in love with her characters? However they too were just part of Nancy, her imaginings, her very being.

Her father's words at the airport stayed with her.

"We never know when it's our turn to go, life is for the living not the dead. Do what makes you happy and the rest will fall into place."

As chance would have it, one of the chapters she'd taken with her on the flight was the one with a rewritten love scene. It was a chapter Nancy had taken back off her for a rewrite and then given back to her the day she found out about her mother. The chapter drew her into a hidden world, it almost seemed as if she had become the love interest of the other woman. She was so entranced she literally read the chapter three times before attempting to make some corrections, but it was as if she was outside her body looking down at herself in the window seat.

There was no answer when she knocked on Nancy's door a few hours later and no answer when she rang her number but when she called her place of work, she finally discovered that Nancy had gone to New Orleans for a few days. She would be back tomorrow afternoon and her colleague promised to let her know she'd called.

Mary studied the small knife in the scabbard. She'd picked it up from a souvenir shop in the high street and immediately thought of Moira and by logical extension, Nancy. She wrapped the box it came in with paper and put it in the bedside drawer.

That next morning she dressed for work but chose her outfit with care. The blouse was made of white satin with billowing sleeves and deep cuffs, two wide pleats adorned the bodice on either side of the placket and the pussybow was made of white lace. She matched it with a green tartan pencil skirt, black pumps and black belt.

There was no phone call from Nancy at work and she didn't dare call again. Instead she busied herself with work and tried to focus but now and then she stared at the phone, daring it to ring and when it did she snatched it up, only to discover it was work related.

When work finished for the day she practically rushed out the door and into the street and nearly collided with a woman with her back to the door and then the woman turned around and she found herself staring at Nancy.

She was also wearing a pussybow blouse but her one was silver grey, tucked into a black pleated skirt. Nancy grinned and flicked at Mary's tie.

"Hey, you. How's it going? Love this by the way, you look very sophisticated."

"Nancy," she threw her arms around her, "I tried calling you at work yesterday."

"I heard, sorry about that. I had to go down to New Orleans. A suspect jumped bail and got himself arrested down there, so I was the one who flew down to brief the D.A down there," she released her and gave her the once over.

"Well the fresh air must have been good for you, you're glowing."

"That's not why I'm glowing," she stared into her eyes.

Nancy didn't say anything for a few seconds and then her eyes widened as she read her body language.

"Oh," she smiled crookedly, "you have changed," she glanced down the road, "tonight will be different."

Different was certainly a good word to describe the night. Instead of going straight home, Nancy had the cabbie drop them at their favourite Italian restaurant. This dinner however was different, the conversation more intimate and frank. Mary hadn't even confessed such things to John and on the way home in the cab she let her hand rest on Nancy's leg.

"My apartment or yours?" Nancy murmured as they wandered down the hallway some time later.

"Mine," she squeezed her hand briefly, "I have something for you."

"I'm intrigued," Nancy smiled.

Mary led her into the bedroom and flicked on the bedroom lamps.

"I thought of Moira," she handed her the package a minute or so later.

"Okay," Nancy sat down and started unwrapping it while Mary put on a Rod Stewart tape.

"Oh my God," Nancy opened the box, "it's a sgian dubh."

"You know what it is?" Mary sat down beside her.

"My grandmother had one years ago, it belonged to her husband."

"I could just imagine Moira using it to fight Nazis in France."

"No doubt she will," she balanced the knife on her finger, "nice workmanship."

Mary nodded as she dragged her fingers up and down Nancy's back, the up and down movements turned into circular movements and she shifted her position slightly so that she was facing her. The scene she'd read yesterday on the plane was uppermost in her mind as she brought her other hand around to Nancy's front and tugged at one of the ties.

Nancy looked down at herself as the tie slid easily through the knot taking the bow with it and she turned at the same time. Mary pulled on the other tie as she fixed her gaze on Nancy's face, she felt both nervous and the thrill of anticipation as she pulled the knot free.

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byShaima32© 13 comments/ 18086 views/ 30 favorites

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